We’ve all been there, whether on the streets around Boise, ID – where I do most of my driving – or if you drive in Los Angeles or New York, London or Bangalore, driving in traffic is probably not the high point of your day. Yes, you may be able to catch up on the news, listen to talk radio, play your favorite music, or read an audio book – but for the most part you’d probably rather be doing something other than being stuck in traffic.
We drive in traffic and it’s a bad thing, we drive traffic to our doorstep and it’s a good thing, we monitor web traffic and try to increase it. Traffic is a part of our lives and as such, there are lessons that we can learn from traffic that will help us better navigate driving in it, driving it to us, and increasing it.
The 3 lessons are the principle of economy, the dangers of abrupt and frequent change, and diversity.
1. Principle of Economy
The principle of economy is about making choices. Everyone chooses those things that best serve their own interest. In other words, people take those actions which yield the greatest net expected benefit.
When driving, we obey the traffic laws and courtesies so we can get where we are going in the most efficient way possible. What value is there in cutting people off and driving on the shoulder of the roadway? Yes, it might allow us to move along quicker, but it would likely irritate other drivers, get us pulled over and cited, or worse yet, everyone else would also opt to do it and then the roads would become chaotic and there is no benefit there.
When you take an action be deliberate about it and understand the consequences, to ensure it yields the greatest net expected advantage.
2. Too Frequent Change
Traffic backups and bottle necks occur, but changing lanes all the time rarely helps you get ahead. You either have to choose an alternate route or stay in your lane... eventually you will get where you are going. Prioritize what is important and stick with it, until you are certain that making a change will yield the greatest net expected advantage.
Have you ever noticed the driver who zips in and out of lanes, who seems to be getting where they want faster than anyone else? Statistically, and while this may not apply to everyone, that person has a much higher probability of getting in an accident or being cited – and being brought to an abrupt halt – than other drivers on the road.
This is the case in leadership and management – provide a consistent message and you will go farther faster. Only change when you need to, then make sure you check your messages for consistency and fully commit.
No two vehicles are the same. Think about it, how boring would it be if everyone were driving a gray Toyota Prius. Everyone is different, thank goodness, and has different needs. As a result, they also express themselves in different ways. Everyone approaches driving a little differently. Some only see what is in front of them. Others are aware of every vehicle around them. The same is true of how we approach work, management, and leadership. There are definitely better ways, many ways are good, some are effective, and others – well those are the accidents waiting to happen.
The point is, observe the diversity and be thankful for it first of all, then figure out how to leverage it. As you are driving in traffic you probably give a wide berth to the driver who is floating from side to side in their lane. Many people will slow down as they pass a big rig, if you are keeping an eye on everybody around you, then you probably see that speedster zipping up behind you and will get out of his way.
We tend to do and behave pretty much the same way as we interact with colleagues and friends.
What is your experience?
We all have had the experience, some with more white knuckles than others, but when you are driving next time, look around – don’t get in an accident – but look around you and see what lessons you can learn for your fellow road warriors, and share your thoughts in the comments.
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